Merging Technologies converters and DAW capture live recordings at a famous Italian venue – with the prime minister looking on
THREE DAYS in mid-October saw an exciting and demanding programme of Bruckner’s 9th Symphony and Quattro Pezzi Sacri by Verdi recorded live for an upcoming international release on the EMI Classics label. Sir Antonio Pappano conducted the Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia at the orchestra’s home base at Rome’s spectacular Parco della Musica. This iconic music complex was designed by world-renowned architect Renzo Piano, while the acoustics for the three concert halls was the work of Jürgen Reinhold of Müller-BBM. The recordings represented a
test of some new technology for the recording team. The usual infrastructure at the Parco consists of a large Stagetec Nexus system linked with fibre optic cables. This operates at 48kHz – whereas the requirement for these recordings was 96kHz. Additional equipment for the task was supplied by location recording specialist VDM, which is also the distributor for several leading equipment brands.
One of the innovations was the use of Horus microphone preamplifiers and A-D/D-A converters from Merging Technologies. Three Horus units were used, one on the stage to connect the 24 spot mics on the orchestra, one in the roof to take the 20 suspended orchestra and ambience mics and one in the control room acting as the D-A to feed the various monitoring devices. Single Cat5e cables connected all these units to the Pyramix Digital Audio Workstation via the Ravenna network. VDM has already completed several projects with this set-up (see boxout, p16), but this was the first time that three Horus units were to be deployed. A Smart AV Tango 2 was controlling the mix and providing the user interface for the Pyramix and Horus from the single screen. In addition to a variety of headphones used, PSI Audio high-precision Swiss monitors were the main listening system for the recording, broadcast and CD-premix workstations. CEO of VDM, Igor Fiorini said: “This was the opening
Sir Antonio Pappano conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
“Both these pieces of music
provide a tough challenge for Horus. The Verdi has huge dynamic range with some very quiet a cappella sections. Most converters I know would lose something at either extreme but this was not the case here. The sound was clean and had the same sense of air regardless of whether it was pianissimo or the maximum the chorus could give us. “The Bruckner piece also has
extreme dynamics but here we often run into the complexity of the orchestration. If brass and horns are playing flat out it can often become a little harsh and over-bright. You lose some of the detail in the rest of the orchestra. Here again, Horus seems to preserve the fidelity and perspective regardless of what is being played and at what volume. I quickly got the feeling that we could trust what we were hearing and that inspires confidence.” The simplicity of connecting
the whole with Ravenna using Cat5e cable surprised the engineer. “It is very desirable to have the mic pres as near the mics as possible but you don’t want to be climbing up into the roof every few minutes. To be able to get all the audio and to be able to control everything down one cable is a revelation, but a little scary when the Head of State is in the house!” The Saturday night concert
Igor Fiorini controls the Pyramix DAW with a Smart AV Tango 2 controller
concert in this very important winter season. On Saturday we had Italy’s president, Giorgio Napolitano in attendance and on Sunday Mario Monti, the prime minister, was in the audience so it was important that everything worked! “There are many benefits to using Horus for these concerts. The sound quality has delighted all our clients and for me, the installation is so much easier despite the complexity of the session. Monitoring with PSI Audio is a logical choice as few monitors can reveal the subtle details in sound balance the way the PSI Audio products do. These were memorable performances and our strategy is clearly to
capture the sound and listen with the most accurate equipment possible.” The Accademia’s sound engineer Giacomo De Caterini was in charge of the joint venture with EMI’s Abbey Road Studios assisted by Fiorini. Producer David Groves, a veteran of the Sala Santa Cecilia, looked after performance and artistic matters. De Caterini also knows all concert spaces well: “I am used to working with converters and microphone preamplifiers that were regarded as ground- breaking in their day, but technology has advanced and importing a completely new recording chain [like this] allows me to make some judgements.
was broadcast live on Rai Radio 3 and the feed for the transmission was from the Horus to the Stagetec Nexus system used by Rai. The control room is permanently equipped with a Stagetec Cantus console and was large enough to accommodate the additional recording equipment, so both teams were recording separate mixes at the same time in the same room. CD-Rs of either mix could be burned for the conductor to listen to for any musical or balance changes that might need to be made. Additional pieces will be
recorded in mid-November in the same hall with the same orchestra. Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle will be on offer, with a cast of exciting soloists. It has already been decided to use the same equipment for that series of concerts and with more planned in the New Year, this could see the experiment becoming the usual set up for recording in this hall. n www.merging.com